Where Fiction Comes From


I’ve realized something critical about the three stories I’ve sold. All of them have come from writing prompts.

I did a comparison of the stuff in my short story folder, and found that I was generally far more partial to my manuscripts that had been based off of prompts versus the ones that just popped into my head, or that I wrote for the sake of writing a story. I also noticed a much higher frequency of flat characters and overused tropes and symbols in the stories I wrote without a prompt.

The writing circle I lead every Thursday unabashedly hates prompts. I give them out anyway, when they show up and no one’s written anything (it’s a club at university, so I suspect some of them feel obligated to come, or may be getting bribed with extra credit in some class or another) but they are invariably ignored.

And I can see why, initially – writing prompts are intrusive, especially if you’re into world building and you want everything to have sprouted from the font of your soul.

The argument for prompts, though, is far too compelling for what little guilt I’ll have from having a kick-start. Ever stared at a blank page with no idea what to write? Me too. That’s because input directly affects output. I’m more likely to get a compelling idea from licking a tree than I am from staring into a solid white box.

So here’s today’s writing prompt:

It came out of the salad.


One thought on “Where Fiction Comes From

  1. Deana Birks

    I love writing prompts. When I was in college, I majored in video production. I frequently got paired with a guy I couldn’t stand and with whom I had nothing in common. He was the best possible person for me to work with — our work transcended anything either of us could have done alone, precisely because we had to accommodate ideas that weren’t similar to our own. Writing prompts work the same way.

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